Consecration of the Priests

Exodus 29:1-37

The Torah goes on to detail the process by which Aaron, his sons and their descendents will be anointed as God’s priests for all eternity. They must bring an offering consisting a a young bull, two unblemished rams, and a basket of different kinds of unleavened bread with oil. They must come to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they will be washed and dressed, then anointing oil will be poured over them. The animals and the unleavened loaves will be brought before God in a specific manner to atone for their sins and to consecrate them. Portions of the meat are designated for the priests’ consumption, and they must be eaten in holiness on the day of the offering.  Leftovers must be burned the next morning. This service will not only inaugurate the priests themselves, but also the altar upon which the sacrifices are brought. The entire process is to take seven days. Sons inheriting their fathers’ priesthoods must undergo a similar process in the future.


God introduces the consecration process by saying this is the “thing” that must be done. As the Israel Bible points out, the Hebrew word for “thing”, davar, can also mean “word”. The Sages refer to this verse to teach that today, when there is no longer a Tabernacle or Temple service, God is still accessible to the people through words and prayer.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

God requires Aaron and his sons to lay their hands on the animals of the sacrifice as they are being slaughtered. What purpose do you think this serves?

Comments ( 14 )

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  • Brian Malinowski

    I agree with the comments that the 'laying on of their hands', represented a transfer of the peoples sins on the lamb that was to be sacrificed. With this in mind we have to ask ourselves what is the purpose of this symbolic act. When we see Yeshua being betrayed and arrested we see similar description of the event as with the offering of the lambs.
    Matthew 26:50 "And Yeshua said to them, "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Yeshua and took Him."
    Mark 14:46 "Then they laid their hands on Him (Yeshua) and took Him."
    So just as the priests laid their hands on the lambs as a transfer of sin; likewise, when Yeshua was arrested the people 'laid hands on Him" as a fulfillment of a transfer of sins upon Yeshua, the Lamb of God.

  • Joyce

    What is the meaning of the different kinds of bread?
    In the Exodus chapter the 3 kinds of bread are mention a couple of times

  • Herman Arentsen

    a.the animal is the stand-in for the person that’s sacrificing the animal. The person acknowledges this by pushing his hands on the animals head (Ps.69:9 (10)”The zeal of your house devours me”)
    b. It is also the transference of the sins of the priest so that he can serve in perfect cleanliness.

  • Angela B

    Thank you all, Aliza, you're spot on.

  • We’ll see later, in Leviticus, that this ‘putting of the hands’ is an integral part of many sacrifices. The sacrifices that necessitate this step are those brought by individuals (sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings) and not public sacrifices (such as the daily offering). (There are 2 exceptions, one being the during the Day of Atonement sacrifices when the priest must lay his hand on the scapegoat.) When a person would lay his hand on the offering he was bringing, he would either say a confession or praise to God, depending on which type of sacrifice he was bringing. This process accomplishes a number of goals. It is an acknowledgement that the individual is choosing to bring this sacrifice. As well, as many said, there is a symbolic act of passing over the sin to the animal. Moreover, by creating this physical contact with the sacrifice, one can envision himself as the animal-knowing that he is the one who should be sacrificed for his actions, and that the animal is taking his place.

  • Margaret

    I think it signifies the transfer of sin from the people to the sacrifice. In that way the sin is no longer imputed to the person offering the sacrifice. This shows the mercy of God who has a right to demand the life of an individual for their sin but instead, accepts the life of the animal.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    The animals act as recipients of the sins of the priests. The Tabernacle and all of it various features are holy, the priest garments are holy, the only unholy things are the priests themselves for they are sinful. In order to be consecrated, anointed and made holy requires foremost recognition of their imperfection and the death of animals in their stead.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    Please explain the difference between these two words.
    אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד (tent of meeting)
    מִּשְׁכָּן (tabernacle)

    • Great question. For a long and detailed answered you can check out the OU’s article on this matter at this link: The synopsis of the article is that the mishkan, refers to the inner environment (the ‘mood’ created by the decor), while the Ohel (tent) refers to the middle layer of curtains-intended to create a differentiation between outside and inside. The article brings a wonderful metaphor, explaining that the difference between the mishkan (tabernacle) and Ohel (tent) is likened to the difference between the ceiling and the roof of a house, or the outer walls (made of wood, brick, etc…to protect from outside elements) and the inner walls (made with plaster, wall paper, paint, etc) of a house.

      • Kenneth Osterman

        excellent article. Thank you.
        I also liked this eye opening comment “The figures woven into the curtains that hung down to form walls are not visible from the inside or outside of the sanctuary. On the inside, they are obscured by the boards that hold up the curtains. On the outside, they are completely covered by the tent curtains that descend over them. It seems odd that the essential feature of the Mishcan curtains – the cherubs – are only visible to a person inside looking up!
        Also, the thought behind using vertical boards rather than horizontal boards is very interesting.

      • Diana Brown

        Thank you Aliza. This was very helpful to put the picture of the Tabernacle in my mind.

      • Angela B

        Thank you! I too have found article helpful.

  • Diana Brown

    To transfer their sins and the penalty for their transgressing the Law upon the animal. On Yom Kippur, the sins of the Nation were pushed back from year to year. This process was needed from year to year. Repenting is ongoing, not a one time thing.

  • Stephanie

    My thought is their hands on the animal represent that they are sacrificing the animals: to atone for people’s sins and to sanctify the animal for this purpose…the hands’ of the priests and the priests whole self, garments and all having been called and anointed to serve in this capacity.

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